J.T. Cope IV
Published August 14th, 2014 by Tiner Publishers
It is interesting that when I was young enough to be classified as a middle-grade reader, I hardly ever read anything at that age level. Now as an adult, I have been reading less adult fiction than ever before, and instead exploring the young adult and middle grade genres more and more.
When J.T. Cope IV, the author of the Countryside series, contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in reviewing his books, I jumped at the chance. You all know how much of a sucker I am for good covers, and after seeing pictures of the series floating around on #bookstagram, my interest was piqued. Props to your cover designers Mr. Cope, they did their job well!
Eleven-year-old Luke Rayburn has never seen a skyline without skyscrapers or fallen asleep to anything but the sound of traffic. But his life is about to change in ways he never imagined.
When his father leaves for a year of military service, Luke and the rest of his family move into their grandparents’ home in the remote town of Countryside, a place like no other. Reachable only by a mysterious traveling tunnel and horse-drawn carriage, centaurs roam the landscape and shadowy wraiths slip among the trees. There, Luke will be drawn into a centuries-old quest for an almost-forgotten book whose secrets will determine the fate of the world. He will have to reach deep to discover the power within him as he battles the forces of darkness and an alliance of sinister men who seek to destroy any who get in their way. Luke’s only hope is to find the book before they do, but to do so he’ll need help from someone he never expected as the forces of evil come to bear on the magical world of Countryside.
I liked Countryside, but I didn’t love it. I think the problem for me came from the fact that I couldn’t quite fit the book into any solid category. It is fantasy, but the characters play American football and basketball. It is a middle grade story, but the plot seemed a little too complicated for 12 year olds. Maybe it could be a young adult novel, but the characters were a little too juvenile for that genre.
Countryside as a setting was charming and wonderful, and I am pretty sure I could just read an entire story about dryads and stargazing centaurs and learning more about the magic that lives inside of all people. I was absolutely enamored by Luke’s grandparents’ castle, and all of the happenings that went on at the estate. I thought there were some aspects of Countryside that reminded me a lot of Hogwarts, but it wasnt enough to make me feel like the story was an imitation, but rather made me nostalgic.
Being from The South, I appreciated that Cope incorporated Southern manners into his story telling. I think this is something that kids of any age can learn a lesson from: that you should always respect your elders, that manners are might. However, when reading, the “yes ma’ams” and “no, sirs” were a little repetitive, and maybe isn’t something that translates to writing very well. But that didn’t make me like Luke’s relationship with his parents any less, and I think Cope captured pre-teen angst really well, without it crossing into the realm of rebellious little kids.
Unfortunately where the story fell flat for me, was that simply not a lot happened. Luke moves to Countryside with his family where he makes friends and goes to school, but there weren’t too many events and happenings that drove the plot forward. There was a lot of floof to the book, and I felt impatient waiting for SOMETHING exciting to happen. And when I finally arrived to the climax of Countryside, everything happened off stage. Instead of an action scene, Luke faints and is than simply recounted the events that had transpired after he awoke.
However, with all that being said, I am curious to see how the story plays out. I think Countryside is a really interesting concept, and has the potential to be a deeply complex novel; way past the level of middle grade.